Uh-oh, look out NFL. It appears as if Bill Belichick and Mac Jones might finally be figuring out this life without Tom Brady thing. Did you see that dismantling of the Jets last Sunday? Jones, who has arguably had a better rookie season than the four QBs that were drafted before him, looked like a seasoned veteran in a summer scrimmage as New England (3-4) boat raced to a comfy 54-13 win.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Chargers (4-2) have had two weeks to lick their sizable wounds after getting pounded by a 34-6 count against Baltimore two Sundays ago. The loss wasn't shocking. The manner was.
These two teams come in off of differing results, and differing timelines. Patriots impressive. Chargers well-rested. Let's tee it up.
New England (3-4) at Los Angeles (4-2)
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 31 at 4:05 p.m. ET
Spread: Chargers -5.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Keep Mac Jones clean
We're lookin' your direction Pats O-line. You guys need to literally keep the young man's uniform clean with good protection in the pocket. Jones has taken 44 hits, a number surpassed by only three other quarterbacks. Though he also is beginning to warm to the chore here, putting together back-to-back games with a 100-plus passer rating. He went for 307 passing yards and a 111.7 rating last week against the Jets. Love this stat: Jones is just the second quarterback in NFL history to hit on 70-plus percent of his passes and 250-plus yards per game in his first seven career starts.
On Sunday, he'll be facing one of the best pass rushes in the league as the Chargers are sixth in QB pressures and have 13 sacks in six games. Conversely, the Patriots have allowed 14 sacks this season. Jones also will be throwing against the fifth-best pass defense in the league, with Los Angeles holding teams to 201 yards per game so far. Defensively, the Chargers should be better with both Joey Bosa and Derwin James Jr. healthy for this one.
2. Oh you know, just do what Baltimore did
Oy vey. The biggest red flag of the Chargers' blowout loss to the Ravens belonged to their moribund rush defense, which is officially last in the NFL, allowing 163 yards per game and a hearty 5.4 yards per carry. That's what made Baltimore's demolition so tough to watch for Lightning Bolt fans.
All this has to leave Damien Harris licking his chops. Harris went for 106 yards, averaging 7.6 yards per carry, against the Jets and will look to do what the Ravens did, which was gash Los Angeles for 187 yards and five yards per carry. Like the rest of the offense, Harris is coming on strong and put together two straight 100-yard games. The big key has been that the Pats' O-line. Thought to be a strength going into the season, it's gone through a lot of lineup changes due to injuries. But now the group is finally healing up and starting to play better.
3. Get Herbert back on track
Chargers QB Justin Herbert needs to be like a starting pitcher in baseball who just gave up a home run: display a short memory. In his last outing in Week 6 against Baltimore, Herbert had a 67.8 passer rating and led the Bolts to just six points. The previous three games before that? He was at 118.4, with 11 touchdowns, zero interceptions, and his team averaging 35 points per game. It could be argued Herbert was playing the best of any QB in the NFL up to meeting the Purple Crew from Edgar Allan Poe Land.
Even Belichick had effusive praise for the second-year signal-caller in his Monday press conference: "There isn't anything Justin Herbert can't do," Belichick said. "He makes all the throws from inside and outside the pocket. He is going to be one of the best quarterbacks in this league for a long, long time."
This should be a pretty entertaining game with a lot of offense, especially with the Patriots starting to click. The two worst performances in Herbert's year-and-a-half career were against the Ravens two weeks ago and the last time he faced the Patriots a year ago.
Do you think he and the Chargers remember last year's 45-0 beatdown at the hands of the Pats? Ya' damn right they do. Interestingly, Herbert is 5-0 in games against teams he lost to the first time he faced them. Look for this trend to continue on Sunday.
Prediction: Chargers 34, Patriots 24
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.